The 2019 men’s soccer season is here. A year after reaching the NCAA Championship quarterfinals for the first time since 2013, the 2019 Notre Dame men’s soccer team will look to build on the success under second-year head coach Chad Riley.
The No. 9-ranked Irish open a loaded regular-season schedule on the road at Saint Louis on Saturday, Aug. 31 at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN+, the first match of what figures to be one of, if not the toughest slates in the country.
“To me it was one of the most positive things competitively about coming back to Notre Dame,” said head coach Chad Riley. “The ACC is just how much do you approach the challenge of the league, how much can you grow. Our schedule helps us to be at another level at the end of the year.
“We were a hugely improved team from the first regular-season game through our last game, and I think that part of it really just underlines playing a challenging schedule. I think it prepares you so well. Once you do it year in and year out, it’s not so much of an emotional roller coaster if one doesn’t go your way. We’re excited about it and it’s going to be the hallmark, it’s been the hallmark of the program for the past 20 years.”
With one season at Notre Dame under his belt, Riley was able to use a few unique experiences over the offseason to prepare the team for the fall fixtures.
Notre Dame took advantage of the NCAA rule that allows a team to take one foreign trip every four years in the spring of 2019 by sending the squad to England during spring break. The Irish went an unbeaten 1-0-2 against formidable club teams while also attending two Premier League and one Champions League matches.
“The experience was very inspirational for the team, very exciting and it does fuel that love for the game,” said Riley.
After returning home from England and playing a competitive spring schedule against other college teams the Irish wrapped up the school year by hosting the Mexico U-18 National team in its annual showdown.
The Irish came away with a 3-2 win in the contest to put an exclamation mark on the offseason, looking primed for the upcoming 2019 regular season in the fall.
“We have a group we’re excited about and we always want to get our team to the point where we feel like we can beat anyone in the country on any given day. We have a team that’s capable of doing that, and the questions now are: how do we respond to positives, how do we respond to negatives, and how do we grow throughout the season? We’re really excited to get going.” - Chad Riley
“Typically the games in the NCAA tournament are close games, and the ACC tournament games will always be low-scoring games,” said Riley. “The base of any good attack is the ability to score in a variety of ways. We’re always going to be good at set pieces, that area will always be a focus. We will also always be a team that gets goals from a variety of different people.”
Despite graduating the majority of goals from the 2018 side, the Irish have reasons to be optimistic in the forward positions heading into the season. The trio of senior Ian Aschieris, junior Aiden McFadden and sophomore Jack Lynn combined to score 11 goals last season.
A high percentage of Notre Dame’s goals came via set pieces, as 13 of the team’s 30 goals came from free kicks, corners or penalties.
“The midfield will be our engine,” said Riley. “We have good experience coming back in the midfield and we expect this to be a strong area in our team.”
The Irish midfield will consist of a nice blend of experience and youth in 2019, as battle-tested graduated student Felicien Dumas, seniors Jack Casey and Spencer Farina and sophomore Mohamed Omar return to the pitch this fall.
The Irish will rely on the unit to dictate the pace and tempo of matches this fall and will need the group to be successful with such a difficult schedule.
“We will always strive to be a great defending team. Every player when we do not have the ball will defend, but much of the organization and leadership will come from our back line. We certainly expect this area to be one of the strengths for this years team.”
Notre Dame’s backline was an area of strength last season, as the Irish allowed just 20 goals in 21 matches. Senior Senan Farrelly, junior Townsend Meyer and sophomore Philip Quinton will each play integral roles in defense this season after both players saw a lot of game time in 2018.
“We feel very good about our goalkeepers going into the season,” said Riley. “We have a great blend of experience, depth and youth. We feel this will be a strength of this years team as well.”
The Irish will have an imposing presence in goal, as 6-foot-7 senior Duncan Turnbull will don the No. 1 shirt in 2019. The senior came on strong at the end of last season and helped Notre Dame make a deep run in the NCAA tournament after earning shutouts against Michigan and No. 10 Virginia.
Joining the returners from last season’s NCAA quarterfinal side are freshmen Mohammad Abualnadi, Zach Dedrick, Thomas Deslongchamps, Reese Mayer, Ethan O’Brien and Michael Pellegrino. To learn more about the class, click here.
“I think it’s a class we’re really excited about, we really like them as competitors, we really like them as people. We’re excited about the class, I think they’re competitive, they’re talented, they’re driven, and now it’s going to be how they transition. That’s the part that we don’t have a crystal ball to see – how you transition to higher levels of competition, how you transition to the academic side. We have expectations for a couple of them to really be competing right away for significant minutes.”